Wednesday, January 14, 2009

After Kate Winslet won the Best Actress Award at the Golden Globes the other night, I was interested to see the film Revolutionary Road in order to check out her performance. Actually, I had seen a trailer for the film but it looked -- um, shall we say, less than riveting. It turns out the trailer really told almost everything you need to know about the film.

Kate Winslet is April and Leonardo DiCaprio plays her husband Frank Wheeler. They are a young couple in suburban Connecticut in the 1950s. They are both young, attractive, healthy, fairly affluent, and have two beautiful children. Oh how they suffer!!! They are trapped in this suburban nightmare and are just so darned bored and unhappy that they can hardly stand themselves. It was really hard to feel sorry for all the moaning and complaining by people who had basically nothing to be unhappy about. I can just picture it now:

Kate Winslet to Sam Mendes (her husband and the director): "But, just what, exactly, is my character's motivation?"

Sam Mendes: "Well, Kate, she's actually just really, really bored."

Kate W. : "I see."

Exhilarating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. I know that being a housewife in the 1950s was not a bed of roses in terms of social freedom or personal development. I'm also sure that April was suffering from depression and she did exhibit bipolar tendencies (manically planning new things, only to fall into a funk when things don't pan out). Still, her whining and carrying on about how miserable she is quickly wears thin. I would never wish ill on anyone, but since these are fictional characters, here goes: a child abduction, house fire, or bout with cancer would have given these people something to whine about.

The dialogue and delivery were also somewhat odd. I guess they were going for the "50s feel" in imitating the style of films from that era, but it sounded unnatural and painful to modern ears. One of the things uttered by April (early on, before terminal malaise set in) was so cringe-inducing that I had to rummage in the dark theater for a pen to write it down: "You're the most beautiful and wonderful thing in the world. You're a man." EEEEEWWWWW!

Another annoying thing (while I'm on a roll) was the fact that neither Kate Winslet nor Leonardo DiCaprio could begin any big dramatic scene without pausing for a cigarette. Hardly anyone else in the film smoked (although I know smoking was much more common then than it is now), but April and Frank were always stopping to fumble with cigarettes and lighters. WHY was so much screen time taken in lighting up? It added absolutely nothing to the story (other than serving to annoy me). Is Hollywood getting kickbacks from the tobacco industry to try to convince us all that smoking is still cool? I don't get it.

The only thing that made this film even marginally interesting was the outstanding performance by Michael Shannon as the mentally ill son of the Wheelers' real estate agent, played by Kathy Bates. Shannon's character, John Givings, is brought to the Wheeler house by his mother while he's out on a 4 hour pass from the asylum. He is the only character who is brave enough (or disturbed enough) to say what he really feels. He sees through polite social convention and cuts immediately to the heart of every situation. At first, the Wheelers find his brutal honesty refreshing, but before long they react to his "home truths" with anger, shock and horror. I know everyone says Heath Ledger has the Best Supporting Actor Oscar wrapped up this year, but I sincerely hope Michael Shannon receives a nomination. His performance was one of the best and most memorable I've seen in years.

The other interesting thing about this film was the clothes. It was "all linen all the time" and nary a wrinkle in sight. April might have been spectacularly bored, but by god, that woman could work an iron (the starch budget alone on this film must have been astronomical).

Final Verdict for Revolutionary Road: Two Gherkins, which is a compromise for Michael Shannon's outstanding performance in an otherwise bland film


Anonymous said...

O.k., well it was between Rev. Road and Defiance for this weekend and I think you just helped me make up my mind. I'll wait for the DVD. Thanks!

Lisanne624 said...

I'll be interested to hear what you think of it when you get to see it!

JMS said...

I am glad to see just 2 gherkins on this one. I couldn't bring myself to watch it, even though I was initially interested. Something about the recasting of Leo and Kate together that makes me want to hurl! (Can we say Titanic?)

Anyway - This is Jennifer from Brink's and I also wanted to say that I appreciate you letting me give Hans a hard time. It's so fun! And, it's even more fun knowing that you might help me out occasionally! (You should check out the comments on his most recent blog post!)

Hope you are well and that you enjoyed your snow day!


Lisanne624 said...

Hi Jennifer! I know, I'm not a big Leo D. fan at any time, but Kate Winslet is usually good. Must be the combination, as you say, that spelled doom for this project!

Continue to give Hans a hard time when necessary! :)

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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